By Monte Burke – Staff writer for Forbes
On an unseasonably chilly night in Manhattan a gaggle of businessmen, anglers and fishing guides gathered together for an auction and dinner in the name of saving bonefish, tarpon and permit, three species that haunt the flats and beguile anglers from Florida to the Bahamas to various far-flung Pacific atolls. The beneficiary: The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT), a 15 year-old conservation organization that has only recently begun to fully flex its financial and conservation muscles. The event took place at a private club in uptown Manhattan that, I was told in polite but firm tones, would prefer to be identified as merely “a private club in uptown Manhattan.”
The headline fish species of the evening, along with the multitudes of extremely tanned men, served as a reminder that somewhere on the planet in this early spring, it is indeed seasonably warm.
BTT is primarily a research organization, determined to study the spawning and migratory habits of bonefish and tarpon to help in their conservation, using acoustic tags to track movement, a far cry from the ribbon and string that would-be naturalists tied to the tails of Atlantic salmon back in the 17th century. Like all conservation organizations these days, BTT real mission is to figure out how to save nature and ourselves from ourselves.
The dinner was hosted by some bigwigs, including Forbes 400 members, Robert Rich, Jr., and Paul Tudor Jones, II. They were joined by Blackstone president, Hamilton “Tony” James and the former Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin. Bonefish and tarpon, like the Atlantic salmon, are blessed in the sense that they are pursued by the kind of demographic that has the means—and the will—to fight for them with effectiveness. This fact must instill some jealousy among their finned brethren, like the striped bass.
Dr. Aaron Adams, the scientist who runs BTT, was joined on the stage by Dr. Jerald Ault, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, early on in the evening to provide a rundown of the BTT’s various endeavors. They’ve made some serious progress in identifying the spawning grounds of bonefish and tarpon and have been working closely with the political leaders in the Bahamas to get them to acknowledge the value of the flats fishery. Bonefishing in the Bahamas, according to BTT, has become a $141 million industry. Adams announced that BTT has been working with the Bahamian government to create national parks that will protect the fish.
Then came the headline event, a panel discussion with the actor, Michael Keaton, the writer, Thomas McGuane and the flyfishing legend, Stu Apte.
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